Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Here is an oldy but goody. It had been some time since making this addicting desert. With only a few ingredients this dessert is just plain simple to prepare and have ready for any party you are planning, whether it is a casual summer party or a holiday gathering. The key is to make sure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature so that they blend well. Enjoy!

1 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 C. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 C. miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 C. finely chopped pecans
Graham crackers

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffly. Gradually add sugars; beat just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Place cram cheese mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap; shape into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, roll cheese ball in pecans. Serve with graham crackers.

Cheesecake Fat Bombs

Have you heard of fat bombs? There are many different recipes out there, but with cheesecake in the name, I had to try this one first! They are called fat bombs because they are made of 90-95% fat that are either savory or sweet and allow someone on a keto diet to enjoy them. I have actually been making these for a while now and just love them because they taste just like bites of peanut butter cheesecake. Instead of adding the chocolate chips to the mixture, you can roll the balls in them before freezing. Once you taste these, your next batch will be a double batch! Enjoy!

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 C. creamy peanut butter
1-2 Tbsp. choice of sweetener (I use maple syrup)
Handful of mini or chopped chocolate chips

In a bowl combine cream cheese, peanut butter and sweetener of choice. Mix well until smooth and fold in chocolate chips. Form into small golf ball sized balls and arrange on a plate or dish lined with a piece of parchment paper. Freeze for about 2 hours and then store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge.

Yields: 5-6 fat bombs

Parmesan Roasted Zucchini

This recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten, I just love the way she makes everything seem so simple to prepare. Well, this one is simple. I have never been a fan of zucchini due to having not grown up eating it and then the few times I did have it I didn’t care for the way it was prepared. I think this is the case with a lot of vegetables for most people, but this recipe might change your mind if you are not a fan of zucchini. With garlic, basil, and Parmesan all seasoning the breadcrumbs you know it’s going to be good! This dish is great served hot out of the oven, warm, or room temperature. Enjoy!

6 small or 1 large zucchini (2 1/2 to 3 pounds total)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 C. Panko bread crumbs
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trim the stem end of the zucchini, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Place on a sheet pan and brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and turn cut side down. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until just tender but still firm.

Meanwhile, make the breadcrumbs. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, basil, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add the panko and 3 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well.

Turn zucchini cut side up and spoon the breadcrumb mixture evenly over each zucchini. Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the panko is crispy and golden.

Mascarpone Moose with Roasted Strawberries

Roasted strawberries….who knew? I had never heard of roasting a strawberry before, but wow! Roasting intensifies their flavor, and there are many different recipes for roasting strawberries which I will be trying. Now, mascarpone moose is a whole other dessert in itself! As amazing as it is by itself, imagine sweet roasted strawberries drizzled over the top! Serve this beautiful dessert at your next summer party and have your guest anticipating their next invite. Enjoy!

Roasted Strawberries
2 C. quartered strawberries
2 tsp. sweetener of choice
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Mascarpone Moose
8-oz mascarpone cheese, softened
4-oz cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp. sweetener of choice, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C. whipping cream

To make the roasted strawberries, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a medium-size baking dish. Add berries and sprinkle with sweetener. Add vanilla extract and stir to combine, then spread out over pan. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, until soft and tender and much of the juice has released.

For the moose, in a large bowl, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, 4 tablespoons sweetener, and vanilla extract until well combined. In another bowl, beat the whipping cream and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sweetener until it holds stiff peaks. Fold whipping cream into mascarpone mixture until combined. Pipe or spoon into 6 small dessert cups. Top with roasted strawberries and serve immediately.

Honey Spiced Glazed Chicken

Sweet and spicy, these glazed chicken thighs are packed full of flavor. Chicken breast are an option for this dish also, but I would make sure that they are on the thinner side. Chicken thighs tend to stay moist and not dry out as easily as chicken breast. If you don’t have smoked paprika in your pantry, now would be a great time to stock it. You can easily substitute it in place of regular paprika in any dish you wish to add a little smoky flavor. The glaze is as simple as honey and apple cider vinegar. I prefer to grill these, but I also live where it is at least 80 degrees year round. So whether you broil or grill your chicken thighs, enjoy!

1 package of boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 thighs)
2 tsp. smoked paprika (regular works but smoked has more flavor)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like heat)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 C. honey
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Mix spices together and set aside. Mix honey and vinegar together and set aside. Un-tuck chicken thighs so that they are flat. Cover both sides with spice mix and set flat on a sheet pan. At this point you can either grill or place under a broiler.

With the broiler on low, cook for 5 to 7 minutes on one side and flip. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes on other side. Flip again and baste the chicken with the honey/vinegar mixture. Be sure to really coat the chicken well. Broil for another couple of minutes until the honey thickens.

If grilling, after placing the chicken on the grill, coat with the honey/vinegar mixture and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and coat the other side and cook for a couple of minutes.

Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce

Memorial day is a few days away and barbecue ribs, chicken and what have you will be on many tables. Why not make your own barbecue sauce for the occasion, one that you can customize to you and your families taste. Most store bought barbecue sauce has high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient. If this is a concern for you, make sure your ketchup and pineapple juice doesn’t have it either. Testing a few recipes, this one is a winner for my husband and I. My preference is to use the apple cider vinegar, though the pineapple juice was delicious. The juice added more sweetness and I think the sugar and molassess adds plenty. I also use an organic white sugar, which still has some of it’s natural molasses still in it, instead of brown sugar in this sauce. Since we do not prefer a barbecue sauce with a lot of heat I only use 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper. This is a super simple sauce that will surprise you that it tastes as good or better than the store bought sauce. Refrigerates great so you can always have it on hand. Enjoy!

1 1/4 C. ketchup
1 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. molassess
1/4 C. pineapple juice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 C. water
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium size sauce pan. Bring to a boil and reduce and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Serve immediately or store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Banana Cream Cheese Muffins

This morning I was thinking about muffins for breakfast and wanted to try something new. I had bananas that were not quite banana bread material but were “mashable”. I went searching and found these amazing banana muffins at Oh how decadent and rich! A batter with cream cheese, bananas, and cinnamon has a cream cheese filling piped into the center of each muffin and topped with chopped walnuts. Funny thing, I used pasture raised eggs, which have bright orange yolks and caused my filling to look orange. Enjoy!

6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 bananas, mashed
1/4 C. walnuts

Cream Cheese Filling:

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add mashed bananas, mix until just combined.

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, egg, flour, sugar, and villa until smooth. Divide batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Add cream filling to a piping bag. Pipe cream cheese mixture into muffin batter. Top with walnuts. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Yields: 12 muffins

Spinach Salad with Mozzarella, Tomato & Pepperoni

This is another super simple salad that will become a favorite for you. Great as a light lunch or served as a side with any protein. If you don’t have Mozzarella or want a sharper tasting cheese feel free to use a different one. I have used a sharper Monterey Jack that I can find here and love it. Tossed in a dressing with Italian seasoning is perfect. Enjoy!

3 C. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 1/2 C. diced Mozzarella, or fresh Mozzarella balls
Chopped pepperoni or salami, to taste

The dressing:
1/4 C. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon (or 1 1/2 Tbsp. white vinegar)
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

In a small jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Shake vigorously. In a salad bowl, combine spinach, tomatoes, red onion, and Mozzarella. Sprinkle with cracked pepper and drizzle with the dressing. Toss the salad to combine. Serve the spinach salad immediately or chill before serving.

Yields: 3-4

Pasta with Creamy White Beans

This pasta dish is courtesy of chef Giada De Laurentiis. You can use any pasta you have on hand, but one that can capture the sauce is best. By smashing a few of the beans while the sauce is simmering you will begin the makings of a beautiful creamy sauce. Add cheese of choice and a little of the salty starch water from the pasta until desired creaminess. I use a lentil pasta and do not use anywhere near a pound. Between the lentils and the beans this has become a meatless meal for us. Enjoy!

1 pound shell pasta
1/4 C. olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
Pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or less)
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 15oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 C. chicken stock
8 oz. smoked provolone or smoked mozzarella
cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1 5oz. container baby spinach, chopped

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season well with salt. Add the pasta and cook for 3 minutes less than indicated in the package directions, about 7 minutes. Drain well reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, carrot and onion to the skillet. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until fragrant and begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and thyme and cook another minute. Stir in the drained beans and chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use the back of a spoon to gently smash some of the beans. Set aside.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and toss to coat well. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add the 1/2 cup pasta water as needed to maintain a creamy, broth-like sauce. Sprinkle in the spinach and cook until wilted. Taste for seasoning.

Juicy Skillet Pork Chops

If you have lost faith in being able to cook pork chops without drying them out, try again with this quick, simple, and delicious dish. As you can imagine, the spice rub of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika brings so much flavor to the pork, and then they are smothered in a beautiful, simple sauce. If you are leary of over cooking your pork, make sure to use a thermometer to ensure your success. Enjoy!

4 pork chops, 1-inch thick
salt to taste
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (I used chickpea flour)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 C. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey or brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Remove pork chops from the refrigerator and season both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile make the spice rub. In a small bowl, mix the flour, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika. After 30 minutes, use a paper towel to pat the pork chops dry then rub both sides of the chops with the spice rub.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet(with lid) over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot and looks shimmery, add the pork. Cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the chops, reduce the heat to low then cover with lid. Cook 6 to 12 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 145 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the chop. Transfer chops to a plate then cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.

While the chops, rest make the pan sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high then add the chicken stock, vinegar, and honey. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan so that any stuck bits of pork come up. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Taste then adjust but adding salt, more vinegar or honey. Slide the skillet off the heat and when the sauce is no longer simmering, swirl in the butter. Slide the chops back into the pan and spoon some of the sauce on top. Top with chopped parsley.